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JPMorgan creates zero-knowledge extension to Zether protocol, may use it for Quorum blockchain

JPMorgan, the big banking firm with its own blockchain in development, has just put out its own privacy addon for blockchains using the Zether protocol, reports CoinDesk. The feature will keep private not only who sends transactions but the amount of any transaction that uses it.

A privacy-first approach

A description from the Zether project proposal:

“Zether, a fully-decentralized, confidential payment mechanism that is compatible with Ethereum and other smart contract platforms. We take an account-based approach similar to Ethereum for efficiency and usability. We design a new smart contract that keeps the account balances encrypted and exposes methods to deposit, transfer and withdraw funds to/from accounts through cryptographic proofs.”

Moreover, the privacy feature will be open-source, and the group revealed to CoinDesk that it will most likely use it with its own blockchain, Quorum.

Zether is the result of research done by experts in the field of FinTech. Creators include Dan Boneh from Stanford and Shashank Agrawal from Visa Research. It takes advantage of zero-knowledge proofs, which are similar to ZCash’s zero-knowledge snarks, that allow proof of a transaction value without revealing the party who sent it. Put simply, it adds some privacy for those using online trading platforms. JPMorgan’s head of crypto-assets strategy and head of Quorum, Oli Harris, spoke to CoinDesk about the project:

“In the basic Zether, the account balances and the transfer accounts are concealed but the participants’ identities are not. So we have solved that. In our implementation, we provide a proof protocol for the anonymous extension in which the sender may hide herself and the transactions recipients in a larger group of parties. When we think about the community building on top of Quorum,” said Harris, “if anyone is looking to get an efficient trustless mechanism for trustless and anonymous payments in a consortium then that’s when it’s relevant. That’s why we wanted to open-source it back to the community so anyone can build on it further and continue enhancing it and potentially put it into their use cases as needed.”

Solving big problems

According to the publication, the biggest issue with zero-knowledge solutions is that they take a lot of computer power. However, with Zether’s protocol, slowdown is no longer much of an issue. “The performance is quite good,” says Harris. He continues, “we had done multiple iterations to improve it and we are doing the verification in solidity smart contracts. We’ll be including in our report the performance measurements for proving and verification.”

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